The following is a guest post and does not necessarily reflect the views of Rand Mintzer, Attorney at Law.
States do not normally certify legal professionals in specific areas. It is usually incumbent on the attorney to establish themselves in certain fields of law with significant professional success over time while practicing. Attorney expertise is determined by legal case track record. Public advertising was unacceptable for many years in the legal field, as the professional associations and state governments were attempting to maintain integrity in the legal system. The number of litigated cases has increased so much that specialists have become a necessary component of the industry, as well as utilizing legal service advertising.
There are states that certify criminal law specialists, such as California. Each state has specialist classes of some type, but not all states certify in criminal law. Criminal defense attorneys advertise in this legal area based on previous case representation. States that do certify criminal specialists have a comprehensive certification process that includes professional upgrade on new legislation and certification renewal testing processes. Renewal is based on the attorney’s ability to demonstrate solid understanding of criminal law as it is currently adjudicated.
Criminal law specialists can advertise their certifications for procurement of cases. However, they must indicate the particular state that has issued the certification. If the attorney is licensed to practice in a state that does not recognize certifications, then the certification from another state has no impact. State laws differ in some ways, so legal counselors practicing across state lines may need to implement different legal strategies. It is important to understand that the certifications are provided by a state board in association with the state bar for that state only.
Attorneys classified as criminal law specialists can also be recruited by other attorneys within the certifying state for “expert” testimony in other cases. Experts are determined by education level, which is usually a doctorate, and any additional state certification. Lawyers hold juris doctorates, just as medical doctors hold medical doctorates. This expertise is not always acceptable across state court systems.
Lawyers that attempt to advertise or recruit cases based claims of board certification in states that do not certify can find themselves in trouble with the state bar association and the state government, as well as malpractice vulnerability. Many lawyers are curious how a prospective client chose their law firm in every case. Earning a law degree is an expensive undertaking and false advertising or false claims to legal expertise can jeopardize the educational investment, so this is not advisable for any attorney. The state can prosecute and the bar association can refuse to recognize their professional license.
Article provided by David Michael Cantor a Certified Criminal Law Specialist in Arizona. David has been a criminal attorney in Arizona since 1989 and a Certified Criminal Law Specialist since 1999.